Medications Introduce ADHD Kids to Moral Struggle

moral-choiceAdults worry about the effects of using ADHD medications on children. The 2003 US President’s Council on BioEthics said, “By treating the restlessness of youth as a medical, rather than a moral, challenge, those resorting to behavior-modifying drugs might deprive a child of an essential part of [his or her] education.” It’s a reasonable concern. If we force kids to behave, how can they learn to behave?

Yesterday’s post briefly discussed the notion of asking children with ADHD about their experiences. A group of researchers has already done this very thing in a brilliant way. The project is named ADHD Voices, and its results are published online in an engaging illustrated format. It is one of the most interesting research reports I have ever read.

Children with ADHD can be quite insightful when questioned in a respectful way. One of the more interesting findings of the study is that they are aware of their conduct and performance and that they value control of those abilities. The study answered the ethicists’ concerns.

According to the ADHD Voices interviewers, most children reported that ADHD medication does not bypass moral struggle. Instead, it gives them the ability to stop and think before acting, so that they actually have the chance to morally struggle over choices. I’m using adult terms. Kids were simpler and more picturesque:

“If you’re like driving in a car,, and like, there’s two different ways, and you usually go this way…and then one day you want to go the other way, but…the ADHD acts like a blocker, so you can’t…It [the medicine] opens the blocker so that you can go [the right] way. But you still have the choice of going the wrong way. It’s harder [without medication], that’s what’s the truth…But it’s not like [on medication] you’re a robot.”

Dr. Dale Archer, in a recent post in Forbes Online decried how “we keep dulling the next generation through overmedication”. Has he listened to the kids with ADHD personally? Most kids prefer to be able to engage in moral struggle.  Ethicists should be scared to death that ADHD children are growing into adulthood without the ability to control their impulses long enough to struggle with right and wrong.

Parents, on the other hand, might be thrilled to know that their children actually want the option of figuring out right and wrong.  How brilliant of the ADHD Voices project to ask them what they are thinking!

Physician specializing in diagnosis and management of attention deficit disorders and related conditions.

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Posted in ADD, ADHD, medications, Uncategorized
4 comments on “Medications Introduce ADHD Kids to Moral Struggle
  1. Barbie says:

    So many aspects of ADHD I’ve not thought of–and this is one, that younger children WANT to engage in the process of moral decision making.


  2. Doug Bouman says:

    ADHD Voices document … fascinating. Thanks.


  3. […] last post introduced the ADHD Voices project which involved interviews with children about their experiences […]


  4. Interesting article. I wrote a children’s book and the main character has ADD/ADHD. I would love for you to take a look – I look forward to reading more of your articles!


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Oren Mason MD
Oren Mason MD

Oren Mason MD

Physician specializing in diagnosis and management of attention deficit disorders and related conditions.

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